I came across this quotation the other day, and it didn’t so much ring true as ricochet from one part of my brain to another, dinging like a pinball machine.It came back to me the other day, when a (brilliant, kind, funny) friend confessed to feeling overwhelmed and full of self doubt about what she has achieved – at work and at home. As she is as a good a mother as she is successful at work – and an amazing friend, I was as astounded as I was saddened. As we talked, I realised that comparison was, in part, the enemy here. Comparing what we’ve achieved against the achievements of others. The type of parent we are. The relationship we have. The wardrobe. The exercise regime. The food we live. The home. The life.
We set ourselves up for comparison. We scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – looking at holidays (how is it that we don’t have friends with a finca in Ibiza? Or a handy villa in the South of France?), families (three children, all dressed in white? With ice creams?!), homes (hello, vast country pile), children (he wrote his mother a letter? At three?!).
And then we post out own pictures – carefully edited and filtered (or, even more enviable, #nofilter). Yes, we’re all guilty. Lydia Gard talked about this very thing in her insightful, moving 5 Things I’ve Learned About Parenting – pointing out that it’s just a veneer, it’s not real. Because who’s going to post a picture of a messy house with supper on the floor, and a small person having a massive tantrum in the background? Yes, this happens in our worlds – we assume you know this. Maybe we should post it on our Instagram feed?…
And it’s crazy. Because comparison is futile. It comes between us and enjoyment – of moments; of relationships. It serves no good purpose, but to diminish your joy, your achievements, your blessings (an old-fashioned word, but apposite). The more we view our lives in relative terms, the less likely we are to be happy.
There’s something else, too. This comparison business stems from something which niggles at me: we put too much pressure on ourselves because our expectations are unrealistic. We feel we have to do everything brilliantly: have the perfect family, the gorgeous home, a career – all whilst looking the part. My mother once idly commented that when her generation (and, even more so, her mother’s generation) had children, they ‘simply’ had children – motherhood wasn’t fetishised in the way it is now. There wasn’t the pressure to be the perfect mother – motherhood was something you did, not an ideal you sought to fulfil.
It’s tough out there. Rather than draw comparisons (to our detriment), we should focus on what does make us happy, our achievements (yes, getting through the day with everyone alive, well and happy totally counts as a major achievement), and try and enjoy every moment, rather than comparing them. Try to see yourself through the filter of how you view your friends – we’re so much kinder to others than we are to ourselves. So what if your friend runs a FTSE 100 company and her baby walked at 10 months? (Plus, a stationary babe is a lot less trouble, and I bet she feels insecure at times, too…) Instead of comparing yourself to other women, draw strength and inspiration from them. We’re all in this together. And, btw, you rock.
The image is a downloadable digital file available from etsy